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Manganese Bronze, better known as “The London Taxi Company” and maker of the iconic London’s black cab, has called in the administrators. By most accounts, the company has had problems for some time, with the market penetration and iconic status of its black cab proving both a blessing and a curse.

On the surface, it is something of a rapid fall from grace. The company had been profitable until 2007, with it signing a joint venture with Chinese car manufacturer Geely in that year. The profits, however, hid growing structural problems within the firm itself and with its flagship product. The basic design of the iconic black cab had not changed for many years, still featuring a ladder chassis for example. This, combined with customer service, pricing and after care grumbles from drivers, meant that the company’s position was arguably more fragile than it appeared on paper.

Mercedes’ entry into the London cab world with the Vito fired a warning shot across Manganese Bronze’s bows and proved to be one of the factors (alongside the new partnership with Geely) leading to the development of the TX4 in 2008, the first genuine shakeup of the black cab design for some time.

Unfortunately for the firm, the TX4 launch did not prove entirely successful. Representing the first vehicle produced in genuine partnership between Manganese Bronze and Geely, early models suffered a variety of problems. To a certain extent this was to be expected in a completely new line, but as reliability has always formed a key requirement of black cabs and a key part of their image, it was far from ideal. Issues with engine fires resulted in a partial recall in 2008, and a number of other minor niggles and problems dogged the vehicle early on.

Although these issues were all ultimately resolved, the company’s position was weakened financially and it has failed to report a profit since – in August, the firm confirmed that it already had a £3.9m hole in its accounts. Indeed four years on from its launch and initial problems a new, more serious, issue with the TX4 emerged and proved to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

In February 2012 the company switched to a new Chinese supplier for the steering boxes on the TX4. Over the following months a number of them failed, with drivers reporting a loss of power and steering control. Investigations began and at the start of October, Manganese Bronze was forced to announce the urgent recall of 413 TX4s built since the supplier change, and to freeze sales on new vehicles.

Whether the issue related to manufacturing problems, or the substitution by the supplier of unapproved part, ultimately didn’t matter. With no income from sales, and the cost of the recall now on the books, the company was forced to seek additional funding. Its failure to successfully find a new financial backer, or to negotiate a new funding agreement with Geely, finally led to administration.

In many ways, the story of the company’s decline is a familiar one, especially to watchers of the automobile world. They effectively established a monopoly position in their chosen market (London taxis) and then began to stagnate. They failed to recognise the need to change for some time and their eventual attempt to innovate their way out of trouble only met with limited success. With the company’s finances now fragile, what was likely an effort to save money by switching suppliers on a key part of the TX4’s design ultimately proved to be a fatal mistake.

The question for Manganese Bronze now is “what next?” The firm employs 288 staff (170 of whom work at its assembly plant in Coventry) and both the Unite Union and Manganese Bronze Chief Executive John Russell have been vocal in the media on the need for a buyout or Government rescue of some kind.

It’s fair to say that, despite its structural problems, the likelihood of a buyer emerging for the firm is quite strong. The London taxi market may be more diverse than it used to be, and about to expand again with Nissan’s NV200 now beginning testing on the streets of the capital, but with its problems fixed the TX4 would still a force to be reckoned with – doubly so if a buyer was able to push through managerial and modernisation changes within Manganese Bronze itself.

The NV200 on the streets of London

The NV200 on the streets of London, as spotted by a reader of Auto Blog. More details can be found on their website here.

The result of the administration announcement is most likely to be a full buyout by Geely themselves, who already own 20% of the company’s shares. Manganese Bronze are not Geely’s only investment in the western car world – they own Volvo as well – and with a good deal of the manufacturing work for the TX4 taking place in China already, a full buyout seems a natural step.

The likelihood, therefore, this this announcement will mark the shock demise of the “traditional” black cab is thus very low indeed. If Geely step up then it will largely be a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” but (hopefully) with some shakeup of the structure and approach that caused Manganese Bronze to get into trouble in the first place – although this may not prove to be good news for the workers in Coventry as assembly would probably move entirely to China. If not, then the firm would prove a good purchase for a new player looking to buy their way into the London taxi world – a world that remains an attractive one for manufacturers, as the efforts of both Mercedes and Nissan in recent years prove.

Either way, the TX4 and its successors will almost certainly prove to be a feature of London’s streets for some time yet.

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There are 76 comments on this article
  1. Anon says:

    I’m not so sure about the continued presence of the TX4. I don’t know the figures, but suspect it kicks out huge amounts of CO2 and guzzles fuel compared to more off the shelf and up to date rivals. Its ride isn’t anything to write home about, nor is its performance or interior accommodation.

    Seems to me it’s got two things in its favour: distinctive looks; amazing turning circle. Not sure these will be enough if decent competitors are coming in force.

    So Geely may well continue to sell it, but how many cabbies/firms will buy it?

  2. Rich Thomas says:

    The TX4’s tight turning circle is mandated for Hackney carriages; I seem to recall reading about Mercedes introducing an element of rear-wheel steer on the Vito to enable it to pass certification. I don’t know if the TX4’s turning circle is usefully tighter again than this requirement, though.

    I’d hardly consider the TX4 to represent the first genuine shakeup of the black cab design for some time. Surely it’s just a very mild facelift of the 1997-era TX1/TXII design? (Admittedly my main source for changes from TXII to TX4 is Wikipedia, but all that lists is minor bodywork and interior styling changes.)

  3. ASLEF shrugged says:

    The simple fact is that the Mercedes Benz Vito and the proposed Nissan NV200 taxi do not cut it as black cabs and will be built in Spain. Boris can waste however many millions on his Routemaster replacement but what we really needs is a buy-out of Manganese Bronze, for the London Taxi service to be taken in house, taxi drives to be salaried rather than left to be self-employed and a fleet of eco-friendly British built cabs to be sent out on the streets of London.

  4. JamesC says:

    Duplicated ‘this’ and missing ‘is’ first line of penultimate paragraph :)

  5. R says:

    “what we really needs is a buy-out of Manganese Bronze, for the London Taxi service to be taken in house, taxi drives to be salaried rather than left to be self-employed and a fleet of eco-friendly British built cabs to be sent out on the streets of London.”

    Why?

  6. philsolo says:

    a) Manganese Bronze have, as I understand it, been trying to negotiate increased financial investment into the business by Geely for some time, but have not been able to agree terms.

    b) I read somewhere that the new steering box manufacturer was introduced into the suppy chain by Geely at the end of 2011.

    c) Geely are now very likely to pick up all of MB “for a song” from the administrators

    d) Some Chinese industrials have allegedly engaged in murky behaviour in the past.

    Now, algebra was never my strong point, but A+(B*D) = C looks a bit odd to me!

  7. Kit Green says:

    philsolo

    This is a time “honoured” way of doing things. Much of The City feeds on this type of behaviour.

  8. Anonymous says:

    these vehicles and their diesel engines must be contribute enough particulates to kill at least half of the Londoners who die of respiratory diseases each year. Given the low daily mileage of each vehicle – apart from the odd airport run, you would have thought that there would have been a hybrid or electrical version on city streets by now.

  9. Jim the cabbie says:

    You all talk rubbish,I am a London taxi driver and I own a Mercedes vito and I say after 16 years of driving a London taxi I finally have a vehicle fit for purpose.
    I and many other vito drivers I have spoken to will never go back to the TX4.
    The problems with the TX4 is shoddy build quality,most of the parts they use are of an inferior quality the rubbers they use on suspension parts are in all honesty rubbish.
    One of the local garages in Bethany green quote they have to work on 5 vitos to earn the same money as working on one TX4 I rest my case

  10. Long Branch Mike says:

    @Anonymous

    I agree, esp with all the stops & starts, low speeds, even a hybrid would hardly use it’s combustion engine. Major fuel savings.

  11. Graham Feakins says:

    Don’t know about daily low mileage anonymous – most cabbies I have come across these days come in from places like Southend, Colchester and Tunbridge Wells! In any case, their mileage I guess will differ little from that of the average daily London bus.

    The steering box problem I believe was a serious one; their original supplier based in Coventry and mainly manufactured at Peterlee Co. Durham, albeit Japanese owned today, had far greater reliability and pedigree than the Chinese substitute.

  12. Will says:

    @Anonymous 8:38
    “these vehicles and their diesel engines must be contribute enough particulates to kill at least half of the Londoners who die of respiratory diseases each year.” – erm, what?! Especially “given the [supposed] low daily mileage”… There are about 20,000 taxis in London, and I’d be mightily surprised if there were as little as 200,000 other vehicles active at any time. There are 7,500 buses to start with! A bit of digging reveals that about 200,000 vehicles enter the congestion charge zone every day. And there’s a lot more of London outside that!

  13. Greg Tingey says:

    philsolo & Kit Green
    Precisely – this is how Jowett were shatfed, back in the 50’s – their new car, the Javelin was better than ANY other mass-produced model – & Ford (?) bought out their body supplier (Briggs?), thus killing them off.
    What a shame .. what a pity, nothing to do with us guv.
    Geely have just pulled the same trick, it seems.

  14. Rich Thomas says:

    ASLEF shrugged:

    The simple fact is that the Mercedes Benz Vito and the proposed Nissan NV200 taxi do not cut it as black cabs

    Apparent jingoism aside, why not?

    The styling of the NV200 doesn’t look from the photos like it’ll lend itself to a hugely appealing ride from a passenger point of view, due to the tiny windows and painted metal/minimal interior trim, but otherwise it looks perfectly well-suited. The Vito even more so. Tight turning circle, good access from the sliding doors, upright seating position and likely slightly greater internal height (so mitigating the slightly awkward crouch you need to do in a TX4 to get to/from your seat and pay the driver), significantly reduced emissions, quieter engines. That’s before you even consider the benefits to the driver/owner – not just Jim the cabbie’s improved reliability and build quality, but an enormous improvement on what’s always appeared to me as an occasional passenger to be a truly awful, hideously compromised cab environment, with dashboard and trim quality seemingly only a couple of steps up from a late-build Austin Maestro.

  15. IslandDweller says:

    I’m sorry for any loss of jobs at Manganese Bronze, but I won’t miss the TX4. As others have pointed out, the ride for the passenger is dreadful. Did they fit wooden blocks instead of shock absorbers?
    Re the comment about the NV200 having “tiny windows”. Yes, but it will have a full length glass roof, which should make for an interesting view!
    Nissan have also announced that they are testing an electric powertrain in the NV200. Apparently the powertrain they use in their “Leaf” car model.
    The only thing that I can see holding back the NV200 is that they appear to be launching it with manual transmission. This seems odd – when did you last ride in a manual transmission cab in London? Also seems odd to offer manual transmission given that newer automatics (such as the ZF eight speed transmission used in many large cars) now offer lower fuel consumption than a manual transmission in the same model.

  16. tx4owner says:

    Ipersonally think the tx4 is ideal for london work.easy to manouvere,roomy inside,and aside from the current recall does what it says on the tin.Over the years problems have occurred,but even going back years,speak to the old cabbies,and they will ALL moan about LTI,but we earn a living when driving the cabs.Where we have been let down,is the service given by the company,when things go wrong,BUT,if you persevere,and are polite in your dealings with them directly,they do listen,and eventually help.At the end of the day you have a choice,converted van at £6,000 above the tx,or next year the Nissan.Hopefully LTI sort the present predicament out, go forward,and continue to improve the vehicle,get drivers confidence back and go forward as a company that wants to build on its history and manufacturer a vehicle that everyone recognises,as a LONDON CAB :)

  17. JP says:

    If I saw someone driving a vito or nv200 I would assume it was a minicab (they look like generic people carriers) mercedes or nissan could make major inroads if they redesigned the body but lacking that I suspect they wont be popular with customers.

    I’d get the govt. to invest in a new fully electric cab.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Graham Feakins – most cabs make short hops around the centre of the city in their working life – that is what they should be designed to do. The commuting is the choice of the drivers – perhaps like the rest of us they could use the train service from these towns. I am puzzled that you think its OK for Londoners to die of respiratory diseases so that cabbies can have this convenience.

  19. timbeau says:

    JP

    I don’t observe any consumer resistance to the Vito, nor indeed to the Metrocab when that first came out.

    But I agree it is ludicrous that TfL still allows new taxis to enter service with diesel engines. Hybrid technology is now weel established – Priuses have been with us for well over a decade and have a reputation for reliability, whilst many owners of Euro V -spec diesel cars used mainly in urban situations have reported problems with particulate filters failing to regenerate due to the lack of opportunity for a sustained run at cruising speed from time to time. (maybe that’s why cabbies commute in from the Home Counties!)

  20. taxime says:

    The present TX 4 has a Euro 5 Diesel engine with a Diesel Particulate Filter which pushes out almost ZERO of the emissions which are harmful. The taxi duty cycles even in London ensures the Diesel Particulate Filter regenerates, so no danger there of Londoners being harmed.

    The present fiasco with a faulty steering box from a Chinese supplier is so typical of Chinese supplied goods, look the part but don’t last.

    LTI should go back to UK supply for major components, even if Geely do come in with a rescue package.

    The TX4 is an icon of London and with more than 20,000 operating in the City, something needs to be done to ensure a supply of decent spare parts for them for many years to come!

  21. Malcolm says:

    Anonymous on the 27th appears to be suggesting that taxi-drivers who live outside inner London but work inside it should use trains to commute. That strikes me as a pretty big ask. Most train-commuters do it because they have no choice, you cannot park in central London, and you may not have a car available anyway. Cabbies are automatically free of those problems. Train fares at commuting times are very expensive, compared to even rush-hour fuel costs. Times may be slightly better, and sometimes more predictable, but cabbies do not have fixed hours of work, they can start when they get there. Driving to work seems pretty much a no-brainer.

  22. Stationless says:

    It would seem Manganese Bronze can now at least choose which direction to go in:

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/11/15/uk-manganesebronze-recall-idUKBRE8AE1R620121115

  23. Chris says:

    As a London cabbie I would not drive anything else. The tx4 has some slight issues, which could easily be sorted out. They are great work horses for our busy London streets, how many times when I’m driving around London a vito van, sorry taxi is slowing me down because he or she is trying to manoeuvre there vehicle as well as the lengthy ordeal trying to get wheelchair passengers into a vito. Look cabbies all like a good moan it goes with the territory, but I love my London cab, we have lost so many good things from our little island lets not loose anything else. I’m fed up with so called intellectual business men telling me lets sell off our assets and let other countries with cheaper labour do what they do best and we keep one step ahead and do what we do best.
    As a humble cabbie what a load off bull, in fifty years time you will all regret that decision. When those countries are one step ahead of us we all loose.

  24. tx4owner says:

    So xmas gone,and we eagerly await news on the lti situation.Will it be TATA or Geely ?.Now have my cab back,sadly lacking a warranty the main reason i change my cab after 3yrs….Will blackhorse underwrite the warranty,i hope so,otherwise no point in making the £ payments on the vehicle.Been a good cab so far,apart frm steering box prob.And i deffo DO NOT WANT TO DRIVE A CONVERTED VAN :-( Now had notification from BHF that payment will be collected in January,and 2x defered payments to be tacked on to the end of finance aggreement,and as a good will gesture,will look at refunding out of pocket exes,eg taxi hire,transportation loss of earnings(3yrs accounts needed for this 1)!!.ONWARDS AND UPWARDS 2013 :-)

  25. Whiff says:

    I see in the news today that it’s Geely. I don’t know enough of the details to comment fully but it seems to be good news.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/9843178/Chinas-Geely-saves-London-cab-maker-Manganese-Bronze.html

  26. Anonymous says:

    Tx4’s have the worst engine, the horror stories i’ve heard is shocking. Engines going at 80,000 miles. Overheating still. 57 plates on their 3rd engine. Road tax 400 quid per year. Gearboxs jamming. My TX1 has 427.000 miles and comes of the road in a few months. Engine untouched and running better than any tx4. They won’t put a Nissan engine in a cab again because they’re too reliable. Lti make money on parts not reliable engines. Hopefully the Nv200 will do the job.

  27. 91 cabbie says:

    Garages and owners who service their cabs properly get decent service from them. I know of TX4 owners with over 250,000 on the clock and still going strong.
    I sold my R-reg TX1 recently and was sad to see it go but the TX4 is better to drive, is 47% cleaner than it needs to be to operate in London, has much better suspension and makes the day go easier.
    The NXV200 has a Renault engine not a Nissan, how reliable are they?

  28. Anonymous says:

    I bought a new TX4 in February 2012. It was, without doubt, the biggest mistake I have ever made. Certainly the most expensive! This vehicle is unfit for purpose. I dread going out in it! The driver’s area is like a torture chamber, I sit squeezed into this sardine can with my knees up against the dash and need to get out every hour or so to avoid DVT. The suspension is of the Fred Flinstone variety, the fuel consumption is a disgrace, the built quality is third, sorry fourth rate. These thing should have died out with the dinosaur.
    I ******* hate the bloody things.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The TX4 Elegance I have had since June 2013 is a quality product, the suspension is much better than the TX1, it is quieter and the fuel economy is up by about £5 a day compared to the TX1, it is dearer to service and parts are particularly expensive but overall it is a much better vehicle than the TX1 and is more suitable around town for both the passenger and driver than a converted van. I test drove both and considered the TX4 the better deal. As for emissions and killing Londoners, the restrictions on taxis are greater than on other vehicles in town and the Road Tax on my TX4 is nowhere near £400 because it is amongst the cleanest of diesel engines available, as for longevity I think that depends mainly on the driver and the garage that service the cab, I also know of TX4’s with over 275,000 miles on the clock and are still running perfectly.
    Electric vehicles do not have the range needed for most cab drivers, even if they were to commute, and the recharge time is ridiculous plus there are very few charging points in town. The way forward will be a fuel cell powered taxi when the economics make that possible, in the meantime a hybrid could be manufactured to fill the gap.

  30. Slugabed says:

    Anonymous 21:47 14/12
    Perhaps they should install a charging-point at the taxi-rank of Paddington Station (for example) where currently a quarter-mile queue of diesel taxis sit doing not much at all but emit particulates into the air…

  31. Anonymous says:

    The TX1 in my view is the best cab out their. For airport runs it may not be the best due to it having 4 speed auto gearbox. But for town driving in london its the best. A real shame the taxi industry (LTI) dont remake the tx1 or admit that the tx1 was and is the best taxi ever. They cant make profit from these cabs because they are very reliable, they dont have big common faults like the tx2 or tx4. Bye bye london taxi LTI finished their own business, people will go to the vito now which isnt a iconic london vehichle,wish they brought back the TX1 with slight amendments. The nissan nv200 looks un-cool. I own 51 plate tx1 taxi, never let me down apart from alternator getting knackerd and a bit of rust on body. The all powerful TX1 is going london we cant stop it. I hate lti for this

  32. timbeau says:

    Nissan’s “Londonised” offering
    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/video-new-london-black-cab-is-unveiled-by-nissan–and-it-will-be-fully-electric-by-end-of-2015-9041167.html

    Horrible.

    With all the stop/start operation of taxis, London taxis were ideal candidates for hybrids – why did tfL (the cab office) not insist that all new cabs should be hybrids as soon as the technology had been perfected, over ten years ago. (I still see 1997 Prius’s around)

  33. Moosealot says:

    @timbeau
    Mandating a particular technology is rarely a good idea. The EU combined cycle – which is what road tax, emissions requirement and everything else is derived from – is utterly irrelevant to almost all real patterns of vehicle use, so just because something scores “well” on that doesn’t mean that it will perform similarly in the real world. A taxi with a conventional drive train powered by LPG or even better CNG will almost certainly be better in terms of air pollution (particulates, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, ozone) than a diesel hybrid.

    Around where I live in West Yorkshire, the minicab market is made up almost entirely of cars in the 1.9-2.2 litre diesel class, mainly Toyotas and Skodas with a handful of Vauxhalls thrown in for good measure. I’ve been in only one minicab that was a Prius hybrid and the driver of that swore that he was going back to a diesel Avensis as soon as he could because the Pruis’ fuel consumption was poor and it struggled on hills.

  34. timbeau says:

    @Moosealot
    “Mandating a particular technology is rarely a good idea. ”
    Like specifying certain bus routes must be run with Boris’s Follies?

    West Yorkshire is not London. It has a lot more of both hills and open roads, on both of which a plain diesel will trump a hybrid. It seems odd that, with hybrids (and straight electrics) optimised for stop-start city driving, and the much publicised problems with particulate filters for modern diesels, especially those which rarely get a long cruisng run to regenerate the filter) it has taken this long without anyone developing a hybrid that meets London’s strict specifications for taxis. (within this timeframe Mercedes have developed a rear-wheel steering system to allow the Vito to meet the turning circle requirements)
    For some years the only non-hybrid cars exempt from the congestion charge were taxis. The CC exemption was changed to apply to sub-100gCO2 cars instead of hybrids – and still to taxis – so some small non-hybrids are now exempt but the hybrid “Chelsea Tractors” which quickly came on the market now have to pay. If the taxi exemption did not exist, doubtless a hybrid taxi would have appeared just as quickly!

  35. Kit Green says:

    Boris loved Tim Yeo’s company’s taxi but the emissions data was bogus and corruption is suggested in certain quarters. No wonder the Suffolk constituency has had enough of trougher Yeo.

    (Sometimes politics has to rear its head even on LR.)

  36. Greg Tingey says:

    There’s a way around the difficulties of emissions, available right now, though it is being tried out in Milton Keynes
    However I forseee “forgot-to-lower-the-pantograph” (equivalent) problems with this arrangement….

  37. ngh says:

    Re Kit 9 January 2014 at 22:42

    I was once sitting behind the (former) CEO who was going to give evidence at a select committee hearing where the committee chairman (TY) then failed to mention directorships and other shareholdings that fell within the direct discussion topics for the morning long session, resulting in several interesting cough noises from those nearby who attended those things much more than I…
    Tim is quite good and on the ball but I can see why the constituency association have had enough.

  38. Mosealot says:

    @Greg
    I believe that under-road coils will eventually be widespread and it’s good to see test installations of them. There are a huge number of items that will need addressing before being ready to move from use by one provincial bus route to buses and taxis in Zone 1. Some are cases of waiting for technology to improve or mature, others need planning. In some cases, the planning needs to be started now! Here are the biggies:

    Firstly, inductive charging is not amazingly efficient. That’s not a huge deal in a very limited use scenario as – thanks to differences in taxation – electricity is sufficiently cheaper than diesel for it to still be viable. Efficiency is going to have to be improved significantly before it can become widespread.

    Secondly, getting all that power into the places where vehicles are going to need it to charge is not a negligible problem. We’re talking about hundreds of megawatts at least and more probably gigawatts just to cover Zone 1. As well as getting it into the middle of London, it needs to be generated as well, and there isn’t a lot of spare capacity in the grid either now or for the foreseeable future.

    Thirdly, metering. While there’s only one operator with vehicles capable of using a system, it’s relatively secure but when many different bus operators and potentially tens of thousands of different cab drivers are all using it, billing for the electricity is going to be a complex if not unsurmountable task.

    Fourthly, batteries. Or possibly battery/capacitor hybrids. While in rural areas outside Milton Keynes it is possible to hold a bus for as long as you like to top off its battery, the same is not true of Oxford Street. If frequent charging points are available, power density becomes more important than energy density, so large capacitors with a battery backup look initially to be a better solution but again while capacitors can be charged very quickly it is less efficient and reduces their lifespan. Again, things are getting better all the time in this respect so eventually they will become viable.

    Fifthly, taxation. Presently, electricity for electric vehicles is taxed at 5% (VAT) or 0.17p/MJ [assuming 12p/kWh]. Diesel has a cumulative tax rate of around 58% [assuming £1.40/litre pump price: 58p duty + 23p VAT], or 2.25p/MJ. Any significant move from diesel to electricity is going to cause a significant loss of revenue for the chancellor and there will be some form of taxation levied on electricity used by road vehicles, meaning that the losses in transmission and charging have larger financial penalties.

    Automatically retracting secondary coils when the vehicle’s brake is released and only deploying them when there is a suitable RFID/Bluetooth/whatever beacon present is the least of anybody’s worries. Given systems that can automatically parallel park a car are available on family hatchbacks, a system that could line a vehicle up optimally with a charging loop at a bus stop or in a queue for traffic lights is a relatively simple proposition.

  39. Graham H says:

    @moosealot – not just metering but plain theft will be an issue.

  40. @Graham H,

    No it won’t. Electricity is not something that can be stolen. The offence is something like “unauthorised abstraction of electricity”. This may be seen to be splitting hairs but can be quite important. If you break into a domestic property and switch on the gas fire you have committed theft (of the gas) and so could also be charged with burglary. If you switch on the electric fire you have not committed theft by doing so and so that in itself is not enough to enable a charge of burglary to be brought although of course there may be other offences involved.

    This also raises the issue of the police stopping and searching vehicles suspected to be involved in unauthorised abstracting electricity from a smart charger because one of the police powers for searching a person or vehicle is to search for items connected with theft. If there is no theft or any potential to “go equipped for theft” then it is not immediately obvious to see what power they would have to search the potentially-offending vehicle.

  41. Graham H says:

    @PoP – thank you. From what you say, the temptation to “abstract” will be quite large. Perhaps the Saxon concept of a deodand would have been helpful here!

  42. Littlejohn says:

    Recent comments have reminded me of a press statement by the CEO of Alexander Dennis last Autumn. I have dug it out of the internet and in brief he said that

    “ADL is forging ahead with a £3.2m development programme to bring a ‘virtual electric’ to market in 2014. The technology will involve a combination of on-route recharging, via electric induction and hybrid know-how. It will provide the first clean-air bus truly capable of meeting the gruelling 18-hour shifts expected by bus operators – and it will do so while running emission-free 70% of the time, and 30% on hybrid power. In short, the ‘virtual electric’ will operate emission-free in crowded, inner-city environments and recharge itself via established hybrid technology while in less densely populated areas. It will make a truly significant contribution towards the reduction of kerbside emissions.

    The ‘virtual electric’ will bridge the gap as we work with others to create the right heavy-duty battery solution. It will deliver what it promises – and it will be introduced without tearing up city streets, without disrupting transport systems and without lengthy planning appeals”.

    To my mind the really intriguing part is the last sentence, even allowing for manufacturers’’ hyperbole,

  43. Long Branch Mike says:

    Have composite construction flywheels fallen off the technology wish list then? They were the technological energy savior 15-20 years ago…

  44. Greg Tingey says:

    LBM
    Ask the Parry People-Mover people?

  45. Littlejohn says:

    @LBM. Maybe not. I have an idea that I have recently seen a reference to a small number of flywheel-equipped Volvos (maybe 5?) coming to London but I cannot remember where I’ve seen it. Does anyone have any ideas?

  46. Moosealot says:

    @PoP, Graham H
    Unauthorised abstraction of electricity should be one of the relatively-easy-to-solve ones: the current in the primary coil is only turned on if a vehicle-mounted beacon is able to correctly identify itself. Public key encryption running on ultra-low-power microwave transceivers (à la NFC) would allow for identification. The IT behind billing it all would only be marginally more complicated than what’s already in place for the Congestion Charge and if it’s initially being rolled out only to buses and taxis, operators/drivers just get a monthly bill in arrears and get cut off if they don’t pay.

    As I understand it, metering resistive loads is easy but inductive loads are far more difficult…

    @LBM
    To be effective, flywheels need to be fairly big and fairly heavy. Quite reasonable for trams, plausible for buses but there’s no space for one in a taxi.

  47. Anonymous says:

    The TX4 Euro V taxi is cleaner than most vehicles travelling through London, it is 47% lower than the diesel requirement to enter London and LTC are working on a Euro VI taxi which will be replaced by an extended range electric vehicle by 2018.
    The Mayors Congestion Charge has cut down on the number of vehicles coming in to London, or so it is claimed, engine manufacturers have consistently cleaned up their engines, so why do the emission figures refuse to come down? Is it because of the road closures and restrictions of road use that keeps traffic in never ending holdups. I believe it is the inept road planners of the Inner London authorities who in putting into operation their master plans have forgotten their basic physics i.e. for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
    As for the decline of LTI, like a phoenix it has risen again under the name the London Taxi Company, backed by the Chinese it is healthier than it has ever been and long may it stay so!!!

  48. Anonymous says:

    Moosalot__ There were a number of electric taxis running during the Olympics, they do have the room for the ”flywheel” but lack the range needed by the average taxi driver for a days work. I myself would be unable to use one and I only live 12 miles from the city.
    Electric taxis have been around for 100 year approx.

  49. Greg Tingey says:

    In true “Private Eye” style, one has to ask:
    “Are they in any way related?”
    Plan A – Range Extended Electric (REE) Metrocab taxi
    &
    Plan B – new plant to build 36,000 London taxi cabs a year ??
    From a quick read of the articles, it would seem not, so that new Taxicabs for London are like buses – none for ages, the 2 or more come at once ….

  50. Anonymous says:

    Had an 08 TX4 until last year and couldn’t wait to see that back of it, was on its 3rd engine but I rented it so wasn’t out of pocket, it was just the hassle of tacking it to the garage every five minutes. Now have a TX4 Euro5 which I can’t fault. The most noticeable plus is the fuel economy, it’s incredible. If I fill the tank up and do a long 16 hour shift which would include a drive in from Essex I’ve still got half a tank left. (And yes I’ve had the fuel clock checked out) A very comfortable ride too. I vowed not to touch a the TX4 again but on advise from 3 friends I’m glad I did, like them a lot but then again it’s still a TX, will continue to rent until I pass the 150000 mile mark, we’ll see.

  51. timbeau says:

    A possibly relevant story in yesterday’s Standard
    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/mayor-plans-to-curb-number-of-minicabs-in-london-amid-drop-in-new-black-taxi-recruits-10252257.html

    As at least some of the minicabs are hybrids, the average minicab must be greener than the hackney cabs.

    Too many minicabs? Judging by how many black cabs I see ignoring this sign https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.501656,-0.112548,3a,37.5y,306.1h,92.95t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1shwwTKVebWWRKycduH_99RA!2e0!6m1!1e1 and lining up all the way back to Westminster Bridge Road waiting for fares, there is a significant excess of supply over demand.

    Having the police actually cracking down on those cabbies who think they are above the law* would be a start

    (*They are a minority but, like cyclists, it is the minority who get noticed)

  52. Fandroid says:

    There is no obvious connection between an increase of minicabs and traffic congestion, unless they are encouraging people to swop from public transport such as the Tube or even buses. Minicabs using Uber are presumably not cruising around like black cabs can often be seen doing. Before Boris launches into knee-jerk extra regulation he should make sure he’s got accurate data on congestion and its causes, not make a connection that probably isn’t there.

  53. Greg Tingey says:

    Do “pedicabs” (Trans: Rickshaws ) count as for-hire cabs?
    Boris is apparently trying to get them removed from the roads …
    See:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20723675

  54. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – I am no expert on taxis / private hire in London. The London Assembly Transport Committee recently investigated a broad range of issues and concerns about the trade in London and published a pretty critical report. TfL are strongly criticised in the report as is the Mayor in respect of not setting out a strategic direction.

    https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Future%20Proof%20-%20Taxi%20%26%20PH%20Report.pdf

    There are stats about the growth in private hire vehicles / drivers in the report. I know the Taxi trade is pleased with the report and the politicians who wrote it. TfL remains very much in the firing line if you read what pours out on Twitter from many taxi drivers who post there. I believe they’re going to lobbying at Mayor’s Question Time this week – last time they filled the entire “Living room” at City Hall. One of the priority questions relates to the Uber app so that’ll be one the cabbies will be interested in.

  55. Greg Tingey says:

    WW
    Do I detect a very loud-voiced special interest group/s at work here, or is that just my prejudices showing?

    The TfL committe are, quite rightly IMHO much concerned about the safety & availability of services for “the customer”.
    Para 3.3 Notes the predominance of Private Hire in the suburbs & fringes, where Black Cabs are thin on the ground.
    Section 5 (dealing with “the Knowledge”) is worth a careful read …
    The overall impression is of a failure of communications, & in some areas of almost non-existent communications. Not a good prospect.

    My own, of necessity limited & personal observations, suggest that some of the driving standards of the “private hire” section of the market leave a great deal to be desired ( I’ve seen far too many of the same, where the driver has been using a mobile phone, whilst in motion ).
    Do Rickshaws count as “private hire vehicles? As far as I can see, these are not mentioned in the report at all, yet they are “for hire” & furthermore, they openly “tout” for business – which is recognised as a problem in section 7.

  56. ngh says:

    Re Greg

    It isn’t just you that gets the feeling of a special interest group interests being very well represented in the policy…

    Rickshaws are currently outside TfL’s remit and Boris want legalisation changed so TfL can have control (to ban them, which should probably speed up late evening or night buses so plenty of Tfl self-interest there).

    However I would of though there is a fairly high probability that the number of passengers wanting Taxis from Heathrow post Crossrail opening could drop which could hit the trade hard as it is quite lucrative and the drop in (new) Taxi drivers might already be reflecting this?

  57. timbeau says:

    I see no reason why the nature of the power plant should affect the rules on plying for hire. When the first hackney carriages powered by internal combustion were introduced, they were subject to the same rules as electric and horse powered ones – although it is a myth that taxi drivers have ever had to carry a bale of hay on board, even if the nature of the motive power was such that it might have been able to make use of it. (Section 51 of the 1831 Hackney Carriage Act was amended in 1976 to remove the prohibition on cabbies allowing their horses to graze, only hand-feeding being allowed)

    “And be it enacted, That if any Proprietor or Driver of any Hackney Carriage shall stand or ply for Hire with such Hackney Carriage, or suffer the same to stand, across any Street or common Passage or Alley, or alongside of any other Hackney Carriage, or Two in a Breadth, or within Eight Feet of the Curbstone of the Pavement in any such Street or common Passage or Alley ; or if any such Proprietor or Driver, or any Waterman or other Person, shall feed the Horses of or belonging to any Hackney Carriage in any Street, Road, or common Passage, save only with Corn out of a Bag, or with Hay which he shall hold or deliver with his Hands; or if the Driver of any Hackney Carriage shall refuse to give way if he conveniently can to any private Coach or other Carriage, or shall obstruct or hinder the Driver of any other Hackney Carriage in taking up or setting down any Person into or from such other Hackney Carriage; or if any such Proprietor or Driver shall wrongfully, in a forcible or clandestine Manner, take away the Fare from any other such Proprietor or Driver, who, in the Judgment of any Justice of the Peace before whom any Complaint of such Offence shall be heard, shall appear to be fairly entitled to such Fare; every such Proprietor, Driver, Waterman, or other Person so offending shall forfeit Twenty Shillings. ”

    Now reads
    “If any proprietor or driver of any hackney carriage shall wrongfully, in a forcible or clandestine manner, take away the fare from any other such proprietor or driver who, in the judgment of any justice of the peace before whom any complaint of such offence shall be heard, shall appear to be fairly entitled to such fare; every such proprietor, driver, so offending shall forfeit at level 1 on the standard scale].”

  58. Kingstoncommuter says:

    To be honest if fewer people drove into central London (why on Earth people want to pay the congestion charge is beyond me) there would be much less congestion. And if there was less congestion the buses would actually be a viable alternative to the tube in central London because they would be able to move quicker. There are very few genuine exuses people can have for driving into London (I mean ordinary people going to work or just for a day out) such as going to the hospital or if you have a disability. Imo the western extension of the congestion charge should be reintroduced and it should go up to £20, exempting people who have a blue badge.

  59. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Greg,

    The Mayor has multiple issues with Pedicabs from a transport perspective, a crime perspective and concerning the general impression it gives visitors.

    One of the problem with Pedicabs is that they don’t “fit in” to either the legal framework or the enforcement mechanism. They are not classified as private hire and as such no criminal record check is made of the driver. Nor are they checked for roadworthiness. Consequently many drivers are rather dodgy characters from other countries and I think it is a matter of public record that many turn out to have committed serious crimes in their own country. Physically removing the pedicabs from the streets can be problematic as they are not taken to the car pound in the way that motor vehicles are.

    I suspect that one of the reasons that the Mayor wants specific legislation is to, at the very least, ensure that the vehicles are roadworthy and the drivers “of good character” although he is reported to want to totally ban them.

    Obviously one cannot give them a fixed penalty notice in the normal way with no registration plate so monitoring them remotely is not good enough. In any case the legislation involved was really not designed for this sort of situation and often enforcement officers have to resort to the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act section 54 which, when you read it, was clearly was originally drafted with horses in mind. Note that our old favourite of furious driving is present in sub-section 5

    Every person who shall ride or drive furiously, or so as to endanger the life or limb of any person, or to the common danger of the passengers in any thoroughfare

    The other problem is that many people regard these vehicles as endorsed by the Mayor (simply by their existence) or the premises outside which they are parked. Hamleys, for example, are fed up with their presence. In reality, whatever you may think of him, the Mayor has been very good at being concerned about the image London presents the rest of the world in order that people come to London either as tourists or the sort of people who enhance our economy by being here. He is decidedly of the opinion that pedicabs, as they currently are, do not enhance our image as a world city.

  60. Malcolm says:

    @Kingstoncommuter

    The general perception seems to be that few people choose to drive into central London during weekday daytime. The congestion is mostly caused by vehicles which “have” to be there. If this is correct, then persuading some of the few “optional” drivers not to do so (whether by exhortation, or increasing the charge) will not make much difference to total congestion.

    See, for an example of recent discussion on this site, Graham H’s comment about kerbside activities.

  61. Kit Green says:

    pedicabs, as they currently are, do not enhance our image as a world city.

    I wonder whether TfL also object to “living statues” (and the associated crowds that curiously cannot find anything better to gawp at) clogging up pedestrian routes? I know they have been in London for some time now but they are a continental rash that needs to go, imo.

  62. Anonyminibus says:

    Taxis and Buses would seem to be ideally suited to being fully electric, with interchangeable battery packs. Spare batteries could be kept and recharged at bus stations and taxi ranks, and swapped several times a day using some sort of especially designed trolly gadget. Properly designed, this process could be made quicker and easier than filling a fuel tank. The vehicle would also have a super capacitor to soak up regenerative braking.

  63. Malcolm says:

    Unless they are somewhere like a station forecourt, street artists of any kind are no business of TfL. But on the more general point, if we (that is UK plc) want to attract tourists, then we have to put up with the things that tourists like. However much we may dislike them ourselves.

    I admire a bit of enterprise. Perhaps especially when the enterpriser appears to be putting in quite a bit of hard work, as do some street performers, and indeed some pedicab drivers.

    Obviously there are real concerns, such as PoP mentions, about possible criminality and public safety issues. But I am not looking forward to a world in which no-one can do anything unless they have filled in all the forms and got a licence for it.

  64. timbeau says:

    The Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869 is still in force and Section 7 stipulates that
    “If any unlicensed hackney carriage plies for hire, the owner of such carriage shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding five pounds for every day during which such unlicensed carriage plies. And if any unlicensed hackney carriage is found on any stand within the limits of this Act, the owner of such carriage shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding five pounds for each time it is so found. The driver also shall in every such case be liable to a like penalty unless he proves that he was ignorant of the fact of the carriage being an unlicensed carriage.
    Any hackney carriage plying for hire, and any hackney carriage found on any stand without having such distinguishing mark, or being otherwise distinguished in such manner as may for the time being be prescribed shall be deemed to be an unlicensed carriage.”

    Section 4: “Hackney carriage” shall mean any carriage for the conveyance of passengers which plies for hire within the limits of this Act* (other than a stage carriage [omnibus] or tramcar)”
    * defined in Section 2 as the Metropolitan Police area and the City of London.

    So a pedicab is a Hackney carriage within the meaning of the Act and requires a licence like any other.

    The London Cab Order 1934 (with subsequent amendments) distinguishes between motor cabs and horse cabs, but makes it clear that “horse” means any animal used to draw a cab. Pedicabs would not have to comply with certain provisions of the Order specific to motorcabs (notably the requirement for a taximeter) and arguably not those specific to horse cabs (even if you consider “animal” to cover humans, the rider is not “drawing” the cab) , but most of the provisions cover all cabs, whether motor, horse, or neither.

  65. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – “So a pedicab is a Hackney carriage within the meaning of the Act and requires a licence like any other”. That would depend on how, or indeed, whether, “carriage” is defined, I fear. I suspect that there is no generic definition of carriage in any earlier legislation on which the Draftsman could have drawn, and almost certainly neither the 1869 nor the 1934 Acts envisaged manpower traction. [BTW, I am pretty confident that “animal” doesn’t include “men” not least because humans have a legal persona that animals do not.]

  66. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    Your suspicions are unfounded
    Local Government Act 1888, Section 85(1)
    “bicycles, tricycles, velocipedes, and other similar machines are hereby declared to be carriages within the meaning of the Highway Acts”

    (later amended to include unicycles, and any two wheeler propelled by muscle power)

  67. Greg Tingey says:

    PoP
    Given that the Rickshaws ([snip PoP]) “Ply for hire” AND that they “tout” for business, why & how are they outside the remit (so to speak)?
    Did some aspect of “the legislation” change a few years back, which allowed them to appear (all of a sudding, so to speak)?
    Could not “Obstructing the Public Highway” be utilised?
    I note your last sentence, which suggests that BoJo, you & I are in some measure of agreement on this subject ( pause for universe to implode … )

    … which leads to timbeau’s comment that the Metropolitan Carreiage Act 1869 applies ( & other subsequent comments.)
    IF this is the case – & it appears from this discussion that it is so, then … why are the Rickshaws still there, rather than impounded &/or crushed?
    Or are we all missing something?

  68. Greg,

    The problem is and has always been that it is not enough to ply for hire. It needs to be a motor vehicle or horse (or other animal) powered vehicle. Nothing has changed.

    A while back some of the pedicabs became power-assisted using a battery. Unfortunately for their drivers the output exceeded the threshold of dispensation allowed for bicycles. This made them a motor vehicle which brought them into a whole new set of regulations. The power-assistance was quickly ditched.

    For “Obstructing the Public Highway” you really need to prove that you were preventing people or vehicles passing rather than just being a bit inconvenienced. Hence the attraction of the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act which is much more prescriptive as to what you can and can’t do on the pavement. The various Road Traffic Acts and Highways Acts don’t really cater very well for the issue of parking a bicycle (and by extension a tricycle) on a road. As I say, the problem is that none of the legislation to do with roads in the last 100 years or more really took the possibility of pedicabs into account.

    On the subject of what pedicabs do to the image of London, I really don’t want a digression onto this topic. I pointed out the Mayor’s views because it was relevant as to why he wants to ban them.

  69. timbeau says:

    This article refers to a licencing system for human-powered spot-hired transport
    http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/a-short-history-of-sedan-chair.html

    I wonder if that law was ever revoked?

    Or have I spotted a business opportunity?

  70. timbeau says:

    @poP
    “It needs to be a motor vehicle or horse (or other animal) powered vehicle. ”

    Where does it say that? The Act simply says “any carriage for the conveyance of passengers which plies for hire”
    There are particular rules that only apply to motor-cabs or to horse-drawn cabs, but nothing to say that these two types are the only ones covered by the more general rules, which presumably apply to cabs whether powered by mechanical means, animals, people, sails, or the power of thought.

  71. Pedantic of Purley says:

    timbeau,

    I don’t think a tricycle is regarded as a carriage. A carriage used to be pulled by something external (e.g. a horse or a railway engine). As the motor car came arrived on the scene it was accepted that it too would fall within the definition of a carriage (hence the expression “horseless carriage”). I think you are stretching words to mean what you want them to mean rather than accept their generally understood use.

  72. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – yes, yes, but for what purpose? As it currently exists – and it has been heavily amended by the RTA 1930 – the clause is an “orphan”, without obvious cross-reference, unless it to the Highways Acts. If – and it’s unclear – that is so, then the reference won’t cover the 1869 Act and its purposes because that isn’t a Highways Act; the 1888 Act would, if it were to be applied to the 1869 Act have to say so specifically, unless there is a Highways Act dated between 1869 and 1888 which could do the job instead. There seems to be a great deal of ambiguity about the whole thing, alas.

    A propos sedan chairs, they clearly survived much longer in rural Cheshire, where Mrs Gaskell refers to them in “Cranford”. (Whether watch committeess outside London had any licensing pwoers for them, I don’t know).

  73. Graham H says:

    I have now read through the entirety of the 1869 and 1888 Acts, and I do not find any definition of carriage. Certainly, there is a definition of a stage carriage and a hackney carriage, and in the latter case it’s interestingly defined only in terms of not being a stage carriage or a tramcar. That still seems to leave open what can be said positively about what a carriage actually is. It clearly can’t be just any old sort of conveyance which can ply for hire – note the exclusion of trams – nor does it seem to cover in actual practice, for example, waterborne conveyances, which do (or did) ply for hire in “public places”, even though the wording of the Act is so vague.

    There is a generic problem with much Victorian legislation of this sort, as the draftsmen of the day rarely included definitions that were watertight. The most famous recent example relevant to this forum was the use of the word “flush” in the 1870 Tramways Act in relation to laying rails in the surface of the road. The ambiguity there was used by an anti-tram campaigner in Sheffield to pursue the current installation; the case came to naught because the lawyers concluded that the provision was “ambulant”, which means that the definition changes over time depending on contemporary useage of the words in question, and can only really be settled case by case. I suspect “carriage” is another such. Plenty of scope therefore for litigation, which is why, no doubt, TfL have stayed silent on pedshaws…

  74. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    Point taken, a pedal cycle is only defined as a carriage for the purposes of certain legislation (intended to keep cycles off the footways and on the carriageways). However, PoP’s point is interesting
    @poP
    “A while back some of the pedicabs became power-assisted using a battery. This made them a motor vehicle which brought them into a whole new set of regulations .”

    So it seems that with power assistance they were deemed to come within the definition of a motor cab, i.e. a motorised carriage plying for hire. Doesn’t this establish a precedent? Surely you have to do more than remove the motor from a motorised carriage before it stops being a carriage?

    But legal definitions are tricky things. Is this a carriage within the meaning of the Act?
    http://watermarked.heritage-images.com/1151063.jpg Would it depend whether the passengers rode on the same vehicle or in a trailer?

  75. Greg Tingey says:

    PoP
    Of course one reason why quite a few people object to the Rickshaws is that they are (or are percieved to be) an “Obstruction”. They certainly seem to get in the way of pedestrians, other cyclists, taxi & bus drivers.
    But, unless some ingenious person can find an appropriate clause or two in the existing legislation, it seems we are, presently, stuck with them?

  76. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – Yes, don’t expect legislation to be nice and neat and tidy: the draftsmen struggle to keep up with ever-changing twists on the original concepts, let alone the new. How long did it take for trolleybuses to be recognised*, let alone defined even in subsidiary legislation? [Not helped there by a power struggle/turf war carried on by the Railway Inspectorate]. Sometimes, the thing is too difficult to do by modifying existing legislation and requires a fresh approach- eg the Hovercraft Act. I suspect that the DUKW tours operated in a slightly grey area, too.

    Sometimes this works to hard-pressed bureaucrats’ advantage – the Isle of Scilly, not being part of any administrative county used to cause great problems with the allocation of grant as they were too small to qualify for funds (distributed on a variety of factors such as population, and crucially surface area) . They were given grant by being “deemed” to have an enormous surface area -usually the size of Canada – and leading to ludicrous discussions with the lawyers: “How big would you like the Isles of Scilly to be this year?”

    *Answer: never in public legislation and about 15 years in private and subsidiary legislation, after several false starts.

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